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Discussing multipurpose hydropower at the 2017 Dresden Nexus Conference

IHA participated in the second biennial Dresden Nexus Conference (DNC) on 17-19 May. The conference brings together researchers and implementers to discuss the closely linked issues of water, soil and waste. 

Maria Ubierna Dresden Nexus The theme of this year's Dresden Nexus Conference was ‘Sustainable Development Goals and the Nexus Approach: monitoring and implementation’. It was agreed at the first DNC in 2015 that applying the ‘Nexus approach’ was key to the sustainable use of environmental resources in the context of global change. The aim at DNC 2017 was therefore to delve into the implementation and monitoring strategies.

IHA presented ‘the role of hydropower as a driver for multipurpose reservoirs’ during a session on the roles of multifunctional reservoirs in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda. Factors such as the growing population - with half of the world’s population expected to live in water-stressed areas by 2030 -  climate change, and a shift to clean energy systems, contribute to the need for more water storage and sustainable management of freshwater systems. Hydropower is critically positioned at the core of the water and energy nexus, and can therefore contribute to achieving SDGs 2 - Zero Hunger, 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation, 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy, and 13 - Climate Action.

In our changing climate, storage hydropower is also set to play an increasingly important role in managing the risks of natural disaster."

Hydropower is the leading renewable source of electricity generation globally, supplying almost three quarters of all renewable electricity. Developing hydropower increases the share of renewable energy and provides firm capacity to support the intermittency of other renewable energy sources. Pumped storage and storage hydropower represent 99 per cent of the world’s large-scale electricity storage key to absorb the surplus of other renewables energies. China is leading in this area, with the aim of reaching a total 40 GW of pumped storage capacity by 2020, to balance the rapid growth in solar and wind power coming online.

Hydropower dams represent 25 per cent of the world’s large dams. According to the ICOLD register 2015, 60 per cent of hydropower dams are single-use, while the remaining 40 per cent have multiple uses. Hydropower can act as an enabler of more multipurpose dams. Storage hydropower can be combined with other freshwater services such as water supply for irrigation, domestic and industrial purposes, navigation and tourism. In our changing climate, storage hydropower is also set to play an increasingly important role in managing the risks of natural disaster. Extreme precipitation events such as flood and drought are likely to increase in intensity and frequency, and storage hydropower has the capacity to reduce the severity of floods and provide water when needed.

However, such benefits can only be realised if projects are built in the right place and in the right way. The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol is an important tool for supporting sustainable practices in hydropower development, and so far over 20 assessments have been carried out at projects around the world. We recently published a collection of case studies as part of the ‘Better Hydro’ initiative exploring some of these examples of good practices in sustainable hydropower. IHA is also involved in discussions around the development of the ‘Hydropower Preparation Support Facility’, which would provide a framework to ensure projects are developed in the right place and in the right way. A session on this topic was organised at the World Hydropower Congress in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 9-11 May.

IHA also participated in a ‘World Café’ roundtable session at the DNC2017. Our contribution focused on multifunctional land-use systems, implementation, and management options. We highlighted existing achievements and bottlenecks to integrated management of environmental resources, besides future research and implementation needs. Our emphasis was on the integration of multifunctional land-use systems such as multipurpose reservoirs, to deliver numerous benefits to stakeholders. We pointed out, however, that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and implementation must be tailored to the local context. Future research should focus on the trade-offs and inter-linkages of benefits, and how to enable participatory approaches and multi-criteria decision analysis, to incorporate the interests of local land users.  

Stephan Uhlenbrook of UNESCO World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) highlighted the need for effective monitoring during the closing session, stating that “you cannot manage what you cannot measure”. The need for analysis of intra- and inter-linkages between SDGs and reporting is key for the accountability of policies.

Ambassador Csaba Kőrösi, director for environmental sustainability, office of the president of the Republic of Hungary, encouraged the Nexus community to not be afraid of using indicators. He encouraged the creation of as many as necessary to monitor and report on progress towards the SDGs. He also stressed the need to open up discussions of the Nexus approach to stakeholders in the social science, finance and economic fields to enrich the sustainability of the nexus and boost the sustainable achievement of SDGs. Finally, he called for greater involvement from industry, who will ultimately be responsible for implementing the nexus approach, and he pointed out the need for integrative approaches to keep in mind interregional integration.